Corey Johnson — who is running for comptroller after dropping his mayoral bid — pledged Sunday not to run for mayor down the road as most recent top city bean counters have.
The term-limited Council speaker made the promise during the comptroller debate on NBC when a moderator asked all the candidates about their dreams of Gracie Mansion in the years to come.
“Every comptroller in recent memory has run for mayor, and cynics say this is just stepping stone job for ambitious politicians. Looking into the crystal ball, and raise your hand if you will rule out running for mayor in the future,” debate moderator David Ushery posed to the group.
Johnson raised his left hand.
The other top-tier Democratic candidates — Councilman Brad Lander, former financial journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and Assemblyman David Weprin — also raised their hands. New York State Sen. Brian Benjamin and Zack Iscol did not raise their hands.
“I’m just being honest,” Benjamin said with a chuckle.
Johnson, who began the election cycle as a mayoral candidate before aborting his campaign in September, spoke Sunday about why he made the switch in March.
Asked during the debate by Politico’s Sally Goldenberg about whether he’s running for comptroller because the job is “more manageable, personally” than running City Hall, the leading comptroller contender spoke about his background, including his mental health struggles.
“I came out at 16 years old in a small town. I’m the only openly HIV-positive elected official in the state of New York, I’ve been sober — this July 4 will be 12 years sober,” Johnson said.
“I didn’t run because I very publicly said I was dealing with a health challenge last year, [and] I needed time to deal with it,” he added. “I did, I got the help I needed. Two of my friends — close friends of mine — took their lives during COVID-19, which severely affected me in a painful way, and I needed to take that time, and when I came back, I decided that this was the right job for me.”
If elected and he opts not to seek the top city office, Johnson would be the first city comptroller in decades not to. Recent comptrollers John Liu, Scott Stringer and Bill Thompson have all run for mayor.
Johnson’s answer — the first time he’s publicly said he won’t run for mayor, according to sources — came after he endured attacks from both the left and the right during the June 9 comptroller debate.